Interpreting Writing Techniques   back

The University of Alabama
Center for Academic Success
124 Osband

All writers use certain techniques, some to make the message clearer, some to sway your opinion. Recognizing a writerís style will help you evaluate what you read.

Recognizing the writerís techniques:

1. Style
The way the author picks words and puts them together. As Ella Fitzgerald once said, "it ainít what you do; itís the way how you do it." Authorís choices indicate their intended audience.

2. Tone
The attitude of the author toward the subject, usually expressed as feelings, such as: respect, hate, anger, impatience, humor, irony, contempt, delight.

3. Mood
State of mind or feeling at a particular time. The way you feel after reading the authorís work.

4. Purpose
The reason the author wrote, such as: to provide information, to persuade the reader, to cause an action, to promote an opinion, to amuse, to entertain, or to induce the reader to buy a product.

5. Point of view
The way an authorís interests and beliefs influence the work. Authorsí beliefs may cause their work to be slanted, which means they do not provide an objective treatment of their topic.

Techniques of writing that twist the truth use deceptive methods to press a special point of view. Authors who twist the truth knowingly leave out or alter facts and use spurious (untrustworthy, faulty) logic. An example of this type of writing is propaganda. The point of view is biased, prejudiced, or slanted. The author usually has made up his or her mind and canít be confused with facts. You can spot propaganda by watching out for the following:

1. Words used for emotional effect: commie, pinko, liberal, John Bircher, conservative, activist, Yankee.

2. Words with special connotations.

3. Try to recognize the following methods of propaganda:

  1. name dropping

  2. appeal to authority

  3. peer pressure

  4. positive wording, general statements

  5. stacking the cards (only the facts that agree with the author)

  6. downplaying an opposing view through negative names and words.